From a foodie perspective no trip to Marseille would be complete without sampling bouillabaisse (fancy fish stew), and there is no better place than Le Petit Nice Passedat. Overlooking the intensely blue waters of the Mediterranean, the seaside three-Michelin-starred restaurant, which has been there since the 1970s is located in the building of its namesake hotel.
Gerald Passedat, who is the head chef and owner of the complex, received his first Michelin star in 1977, second in 1981, and has maintained his three-Michelin-star rating since 2008.
We were one of the first tables to arrive for our Saturday lunch reservation and had a chance to pick our own table – right by the open windows, overlooking the sea and enjoying the sounds of the waves crashing below us.
As soon as we sat down, and got a glass of champagne (of course, when in France!), the waiter informed us that by pure chance we would be able to enjoy the restaurant’s famous Bouille-abaisse menu even though we had not preordered it.
A good thing to know is that you have to call 48 hours in advance of your reservation if you wish to experience the 200 euro, three-course menu. Another specific when it comes to this particular set menu is that everyone at the table has to order it, and so we did…
One thing I have to point out is that the regular menu is only available in French, which I found to be quite annoying, since my high school level of French seemed rather insufficient to walk me through the dishes. Luckily, the staff’s English was good enough so we got a pretty good overall idea of our choices.
Bouillabaisse is a very unique Provencal fish stew, native to the port city of Marseille. We were only passing through, on our way to Arles, so we made it a point to try what all the fuss was about. I am the most picky eater you could possibly meet, so this was quite an adventure.
Full transparency, bouillabaisse is not my thing (read, it’s super gross), so this was a one-time experience for both my fiancé and myself.
The courses were very curiously named, following an ocean depth theme – Shallow waters (raw shellfish), Deep seas, and the Abyss. The photo above is of the second course – a combination of fish and lobster in saffron bouillon.
The third course was probably the least enjoyable for me, but the champagne helped me drown my food sorrows 😉 I walked away from this fancy fish stew experience with a freshly acquired awareness that I definitely do not enjoy the taste of saffron.
The food was plated with precision and attention to detail, and the staff’s unobtrusive presence was closer to a beautifully choreographed performance than a monotonous food service.
What followed was by far my favourite part of the meal. We went during “pear season”, which happens to be one of my favourite fruits, so I really enjoyed the three desserts. We took our espresso and post-dessert selection of petit fours on the sun drenched patio which made for the perfect finish to the first lunch of our French adventure.